Victoria Banks-The Write Gal For Country

Cover May 13, 2011

Story: Lenny Stoute

Easing through Monday morning Nashville traffic on the way to work, Victoria Banks is breaking all manner of laws talking on her car phone. The fast-rising Ontario native is currently working nine to five like a Dolly Parton song in a large corporate office. Song writing office, that is, hoedown tunes and hurtin’ croons. Written down in the service of a major publishing house in the country music capital. It’s the kind of gig many a hustling songwriter would give someone else’s right arm for.

"Writing songs every day with the best in the business, with the best in recording and production studios right there, yes, it’s pretty incredible.

"I’d never imagined myself a big performer, it was always about the writing, the stories. I was already at that stage where songs were coming through at the most inconvenient times. I was driven, couldn’t rest until I wrote them down. Couldn’t stop until it was finished.

"Each song presents itself differently, Some just arrive and are the ones you get down quickest, others you sometimes fiddle with for years and still have that nagging feeling it isn’t finished and keep going back to it. Down here they have a saying about songs; it works or it’s work.

"A song’s finished when all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. That can happen all at once or it can happen over time. Even when you’re not particularly tailoring a song for a specific artist, songs will come through that you know aren’t for you. 

Victoria Banks the performer...Victoria Banks the performer...

"Then there are the songs that feel more like me, that fit my style and those are the ones I went to for this album. There were also certain songs that, even as I was writing, I knew would be for album number two".

The lanky lady scored her first major hit with Sara Evans’ ASCAP and SOCAN-award-winning “Saints &Angels." earned the blessing of Nashville’s artist-breaking Music Row Magazine, crafted Jessica Simpson’s Billboard record-breaking country debut “Come On Over," and penned One More Girl’s breakout hit “When It Ain’t Raining," Doc Walker’s chart-topping “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me" and Johnny Reid’s smash “Dance With Me," for which Victoria was named 2010 CCMA Songwriter of the Year.

...the CCMC 2010 Award winner...the CCMC 2010 Award winnerDespite having racked up this string of bankable hits, Banks insist her approach remains individualistic rather than formulaic. Stems from ‘the songwriter is born not made’ subtext in her personal narrative. Banks was cruising towards a degree in zoology at University of Toronto, writing tunes and gigging around a little but always with the writing foremost. With a solid lock on a post-graduation job with a Government agency, life was good. Then, like a Depression-era country song, an election came down on the wrong side, sweeping away her connections and her job, leaving her high and dry. Which she saw as a clean slate she would fill up with songs.

Banks worked at a variety of gigs to finance a Nashville trip and once there, lost little time getting busy and shopping her stuff around. In 2009, Victoria Banks finally felt ready to perform, record and self-produced a debut album. When You Can Fly made her that year’s most nominated female artist in Canadian country music.

Then it all changed as the lady went from in-demand Nashville songwriter to in-demand opening act for superstar acts Reba McEntire, Randy Travis and Johnny Reid. The transition was a poignant case of first cut is the deepest as Banks’ big time performance debut came four days after the death of her mother.

..the sensitive songwriter...the sensitive songwriter."My Mom had been dead four days before my first big show, opening for Johnny Reid in front of 7,000. I was going from playing club gigs for like 50 people to this. And I was having to do it when I was devastated about losing my mother. At one point I’d though I’d chuck it, that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But on the other hand I had worked so hard and had been given such an opportunity.

"I thought about what Mom would like and I realised she wouldn’t be happy if I quit. She’d want me to go on so I did. When I walked onto that stage I felt, raw, exposed, like there was no skin on my body. I don’t know how I got through it, just me and my guitar. I focused on singing the songs just like I always did, pretending I was in my living room and then it was over, I had done it.

"I was lucky enough that the audience made the connections with what I was singing and when I stood there and I heard the applause, it was incredible; a mix of wow I did it and a huge sense of relief.

"I’m still not out of the emotional woods when I’m performing. The material on Never Be The Same is still fresh enough that sometimes the root emotion of a song will sneak up on me as I’m singing and it gets tricky. Because I’m exposing parts of my life I wouldn’t even talk about to people"And coming through all the jubilation and tumult like an 18-wheeler barrelling down the Interstate, the dreaded Sophomore Album, known to separate the stayers from the one-hit wonders.

"The jinx is there because, in my case, I had ten years to write the first album. Then comes touring, the promotions, the appearances and you haven’t had much opportunity  to write and suddenly it’s time for the second album, I wasn’t worried as I’ve been writing steadily for ten years so I have a lot of songs in my catalogue.  "Even so, this album is very personal and so most of the songs were fresh. I was coming out of an abusive relationship, my mom was gravely ill and then I fell in love again. I needed to address those events in songs".

"At its best, music lifts our spirits, shows us that we’re not alone and reminds us of what’s important in life. That’s my goal with Never Be The Same. I’d like for people to find something to connect with, something uplifting because some of the lyrics cut pretty deeply for me.

"That sort of therapeutic writing is part of country; country music has never shied away form dealing with difficult subject matter, and honesty can sometimes be painful and very revealing".

For the full revelation of all things Victoria Banks check

Editor's Note: The Boots that Victoria Banks is wearing on the cover photo, are the "Ashley Boots" - fashioned by Cassandra Rush